Sci-fi is a graphic designer’s dream: lurid planetary colours! Monsters! Tentacles! Women screaming! The 1950s was the heyday. Not held back by political correctness, artists went wild with buxom women in waspishly waisted costumes and the graphic depictions of the things that made young kids reading comic books by torchlight afraid – those pesky aliens. But before all that was…
METROPOLIS – 1927
Fritz Lang’s silent black and white German masterpiece was not an immediate success when originally premiered in Berlin. It had no ‘stars,’ sci-fi was not generally established as a genre and its over-long construction did not appeal to audiences already hooked on Hollywood. In 1926 America had snatched 94.9 % of the film market – Germany limped behind with a 1.2% share. When sound was introduced in the same year as its release, it made it even more of an oddity. One day’s oddity became a future classic.
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL – 1951
Robert Wise’s film had little in the way of modern effect trickery. The robot sentinel Gort was played when walking by 7ft 7in actor Lock Martin, his costume so claustrophobic that he was only able to be inside for about 20 minutes at a time. Michael Rennie was perfect choice as alien Klaatu, with his intelligent and ethereal face. Much has been made of possible religious symbolism of Klaatu’ s Christ-like death and resurrection. The Quakerish ‘we come in peace’ message proved that sci-fi can be thoughtful.
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON – 1954
This film grew from Cinematographer Gabrial Figueroa and Producer William Alland’s chat about the mythology of a half fish-half man. Alland’s resulting script ‘The Sea Monster,’ was made into a film a decade later. Although it wasn’t the first 3D film, it was the first 3D filmed underwater. A student played the swimming monster but Ben Chapman, a strapping lad of 6ft 5in, played the terrifying beast on land. Unusually, a female modelmaker Millicent Patrick created the monster but unjustly was not credited until fairly recently.
ATTACK OF THE 50FT WOMAN – 1958
What could be sexier – but also more hilarious and disturbing – than a huge half-naked woman extracting revenge on her unfaithful husband? More soft porn than true sci-fi, it made a star of Yvette Vickers, an ex Playboy model who played good time girl Honey Parker, the husband’s mistress. Yvette, who had dated Cary Grant and Lee Marvin, later became a recluse and In May 2011 she was found in her dilapidated Beverley Hills Home surrounded by fan mail. Mummified, Vickers had probably been dead for maybe a year.
Needless to say this is just a fraction on the possible candidates. If you can think of more that deserve a big sci-fi thumbs up, we’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
PLANET OF THE APES – 1968
With a jaw that could cut steel and attitude to match, the beleaguered protagonist of Planet of the Apes, Charlton Heston, was a striking poster boy. The location shots may have looked effectively bleak and most were indeed filmed in deserted areas of Utah and Arizona. But it is ironic that the dystopian and terrifying final part of the film – that eponymous ending where our hero realises the tragic truth – was actually shot on two beaches in utopian cocktail-rich Malibu – Westward Beach and Zuma Beach.
SILENT RUNNING -1971
Douglas Trumball, the special effects genius behind 2001: A Space Odyssey, made Silent Running at the ridiculously tender age of 29. It has hippy sentimentality running through its veins and songs by Joan Baez reinforce its love bead credentials – but its green message, of a man trying to save what is left of earth’s plant and animal life in biospheres in outer space, seems remarkable modern. If the beautiful little robots alone don’t make you cry – then you haven’t got a heart.
Alien’s tagline – in space no one can hear you scream – was as brutally effective as the stripped down poster design. Audiences were more scared with what they didn’t see – that ‘something’ in the gloom – than any expensive special effects. Ridley Scott truly nurtured Alien to make it so much more than a B-movie, but he had to work hard to prise cash from film company Fox. So the Giger-designed monster was in fact made from rubber and condoms and was deliberately hidden for some of the time.
Needless to say these are just a fraction of the memorable movie posters, which have dazzled us sci-fans. If you can think of any others that have stuck in your memory we’d love to hear about them in the comments below.